It used to be that only the upper crust could afford to own real leather furniture; the rest of us had to make do with synthetic substitutes. But in recent years, prices have started to come down as leather has become more popular. Manufacturers are offering a greater choice in styles, making it possible to find leather to suit almost every taste and budget. Before you invest in this practical, versatile furniture, saddle up with some savvy buying tips.
Grade is the most important feature of leather's quality--and an indicator of durability and price. Manufacturers and showrooms use similar vocabulary to describe grade, which makes the buyer's job easier. Top grain indicates leather taken from the desirable outer surface of the hide. Leathers taken from the lower surfaces are split grains, and are much weaker. All but the least expensive furniture should be made from top grains.
Top-grain leathers are graded based on the ways manufacturers prepare the leather.
Aniline (or "pure" or "full" aniline) leather is soaked in aniline dye, but does not have other finishes or pigments applied. Only the best hides are used for this superbly soft leather. Semi-aniline (or "protected" aniline) leathers have a small amount of coating or pigment, giving them slightly better protection against stains and fading. Pigmented leathers are fully treated with surface color. Made from lesser-grade hides, they are stiffer than anilines, but also more stain- and scuff-resistant, and more affordable.
Leathers are graded by how much manufacturers have to do to get them ready for market. Nearly perfect, mark-free hides are rare and, therefore, highly prized. Most anilines will have visible markings, such as wrinkles and scars, that contribute to their natural beauty. Like a well-worn wallet or bomber jacket, they develop a lustrous patina with age and use.
Keep in mind that added finishes and surface pigments aren't necessarily bad. In fact, if you prefer more consistent color in your furniture, untreated anilines may not be for you. Finishes and pigments also provide greater protection from scratches, stains, and sun fading. The "best" leather, in other words, is by no means always the best choice for your family or situation.
The texture of leather furniture, like its appearance, is partly a function of its grade. The highest quality hides become the softest and most supple leathers. (In industry-speak, they have a more luxurious "hand," or feel.) Pigmented leathers and "corrected grain" leathers (those that have been buffed to remove obvious surface imperfections) have a stiffer hand. Beyond these differences, the following texturing techniques can give leather its distinctive appearance and feel:
Nubuck leathers are lightly brushed or abraded, resulting in a short nap with a plush softness. Nubucks are top-grain leathers, so they last longer than do their cousins, suedes. Nubucks also have the advantage of being treated with a protectant that makes them more stain-resistant than other anilines. Suedes approximate the look and feel of nubucks but are made from less-durable split grains.
Sauvage is a two-toned effect that lends depth to leather, producing a marbled or creased appearance.
Pull-up leathers are full anilines that have an oil or wax application. When the leather is pulled, or stretched, the oil or wax separates, producing a lighter burst of color. The pull-up technique is used for distressed or weathered looks.
Embossed leathers are corrected grains that have a new pattern or grain imprinted on them with high heat or pressure, resulting in anything from alligator to floral effects.
Grade will largely determine how much you pay for leather furniture. A sofa made from top-grain leather will range from $700 (a good sale on corrected-grain, pigmented leather) to $6,000 or more for designer names and pure aniline leather.
Leather may take slightly more care and upkeep than fabric upholstery. But in the long run, it's worth the trouble. Here are tips for preventive maintenance:
Keep leather furniture away from heat sources, which will eventually dry the leather out.
Place furniture out of direct sunlight, which causes leather to fade.
Vacuum leather regularly to remove dust.
Blot any spills immediately with a dry cloth, and let air dry.
Regularly use the recommended cleaners or creams to improve leather's resistance to staining and to keep it soft and supple.
Leather-care products are available from furniture manufacturers and stores; salespeople can recommend products for the furniture you select. Many retailers also offer leather warranties. For a moderate price (about $100 for a seven-year warranty on a sofa, half that for a chair), your leather will be repaired or replaced if it cracks, stains, or tears, ensuring that you will enjoy it for years to come.
Changing and updating your wardrobe can be a new way to reinvent your life and reflect your true personality. Here are some tips and guidelines to use when changing your clothing style. Reinventing your wardrobe can be a new way to reinvent your life. Your clothes represent a large part of your lifestyle, not to mention your personality. There are even people that let their clothes mask their true personality, since they get caught up in the everyday normality of life including work and raising children. When this happens it's time to reinvent yourself. With these tips, you'll be a new you in no time.
1. The first thing to do is to take a good look at your lifestyle. Are you're a 9-5er, working in a corporate setting where looking professional is a must? Or are you in a creative field where dressing more funky is acceptable? What areas of the world do you life in...one that has seasons or one that's warm all year round? What are your outdoor activities? All these questions are great to ask in the first stages of reinvention. 2. Clean out the clutter, meaning clean out that closet and drawer space. You'll need to get rid of anything that doesn't fit you or your lifestyle and make room for new clothes. 3. Think who you want to be. What type of person do you want to portray. When you come up with this, you can make a list of must-haves for your lifestyle. 4. Go shopping. Remember, life is full of fun things besides work. So often, we buy clothes only for work and forget about our other lives. But, buying for your "going out or recreational" lifestyle will help you define who you really are as far as clothes are concerned. 5. Don't be afraid to try new looks that you have always wanted to try. Get inspiration from magazines, movies and people on the street to emulate (not copy) their look. Put your own twist of creativity into the look. 6. Reinventing your wardrobe doesn't mean buying an entire closet full of clothes all at one time. You can build your new wardrobe slowly. This will ensure that you really like your new look and it's truly "you", not a trend that will surpass.
Some Looks to Try
There are so many looks out there. Here are a few ideas for you to get started. And, remember mixing and matching styles will make you even more unique.
Vintage ? this is a great look especially for those who are history buffs; think Kate Moss or Siena Miller. These Londoners really have this look pulled together. Tip: Scour thrift stores in your town and pick up anything vintage from handbags to shoes, to clothes. Boho Chic - this look brings thoughts of Kate Hudson and is great for an effervescent personality. Hippie chic can be a fun way to pull outfits together that looks effortless. Classic ? the gorgeous strand of pearls, the clean lines, and the perfectly pulled together look is utterly Jackie O. and is one of the favorite looks of women around the world. Look for clothes that are easy to wear, and you will always look timeless.
Reinvention takes time. If you've always wanted to try a look, now is a great time to do it. You may find that when reinventing your clothes, you've reinvented the most important thing...you.
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